Her Majesty’s Regiment of Groundhoppers love Easington CW. They play their midweek games on Thursday, a night that is rarely used the length and breadth of the nation and attract followers from all points of the compass. All money in the coffers for the Colliery and much satisfaction for those who count football games and grounds.

Approaching the ground, there was the welcome sight of floodlights shining over the Easington sky. Car parking was difficult. Was it a mass influx of Willington supporters, reminiscing about Tommy Holden and Jackie Forster and bemoaning the demise of Bond Brothers Buses? Was there a Billy Elliott reunion evening on in the Easington Social Centre, all dancing pitmen and terpsichorean coppers? Were they giving away free ham and pease pudding stotties in the Co-op?

As I parked, the lights blazed away and I embarked on the moving walk along the Memorial Road to the ground. The 83 trees that were planted to commemorate the pitmen who lost their lives in the 1951 explosion stood stark against the failing light.

Failing light? Surely the floodlights would illuminate the path?  I quickened my step from snails’ pace to tortoise pace and on reaching the ground saw the silhouettes of several of the GH fraternity stood outside the gate and debating whether to enter or not. Not was the preferred choice, or at least not until “the man from Hetton” had arrived to fix the generator.

He did both. The lights came on, money was passed over the turnstile and acquaintances were renewed inside with contingents from Sunderland, Gateshead, Hartlepool, Darlington and Middleton Tyas. Programmes were purchased, food was consumed and the players came out for their warm up. The kick off would be 15 minutes late, but we could live with that.

Except it wasn’t. The Man from Hetton had only got the generator to work for a short period and he informed the referee that the pump was about to go and he couldn’t fix it.

While the lights were blazing away the three officials left the pitch indicating that they were calling the game off and as they climbed the steps to the changing rooms, out went the lights again. Some wag suggested that if we all raised our arms to the sky with our hands pointing upwards, that might work as it is well known that “many hands make light(s) work” but his suggestion was not adopted.

There were other hoppers there from Bedford and Mansfield (a tricky one that; it’s in the former Nottinghamshire coalfield and memories are long in East Durham) who had made lengthy and expensive journeys only to see their hopes crushed through something which may well have been avoidable.

In contrast, my trip home was about 20 miles through Haswell Plough, Sherburn Hill and skirting Bowburn and Coxhoe before I hit the main road at Tursdale. I chuckled along to Loudon Wainwright III as he demolished his family in song, arriving home to a cup of Ovaltine and a Morrisons vanilla slice. The men from Beds and Notts may not have had such a simple journey nor such a satisfying home coming.

Pete Sixsmith